Gao Lab

Welcome to Gao Lab

Our lab innovates nanotechnology to image and perturb tumor biology and immunology with the ultimate goal to advance cancer care. Our pH nanosensor has received FDA Breakthrough Therapy Designation for precision cancer surgery. A STING-activating nanoparticle has entered first-in-human trials in patients with advanced solid tumors. 

Meet the Principal Investigator

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Jinming Gao, Ph.D.

Jinming Gao is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Cell Biology, Otolaryngology, and Pharmacology at UT Southwestern.  He also directs an NCI-sponsored Nano-Immune-Engineering Center. He holds the Elaine Dewey Sammons Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research, in Honor of Eugene P. Frenkel, M.D.

Gao Lab Highlights

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All-or-nothing protonation cooperativity for a STING-activating polymer

Maggie Wang led this study to elucidate the ultra-pH sensitive behavior of PC7A, a STING-activating polymer, as a result of micelle self-assembly. She further demonstrated the use of PC7A micelles for pH precision delivery of an anticancer drug (PMID: 37541432).

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STING-licensing of type 1 dendritic cells drives antitumor immunity

Using a 'shock-and-lock' STING-activating nanoparticle, Jian, Suxin and Maggie demonstrated the importance of type 1 conventional dendritic cells in treating a broad range of mouse tumors. This insight led to the testing of a STING-cDC1 biomarker that predicts survival outcomes in lung cancer patients after neoadjuvant chemo-immunotherapy.

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - metabolic tale of lactic acid and lactate

It is well known lactic acid from tumor glycolysis is toxic to T cells (Mr. Hyde). Qiang Feng led this study to reveal lactate, counter ion of lactic acid, is surprisingly immune protective (Dr. Jekyll) and increases longevity of T cells against malignancy. The graph shows high lactate concentration boosts stemness of human CD8 T cells (PMC9448806).


Cancer cells polarize extracellular acidity to drive T cell suppression

Qiang et al revealed cancer cells excrete protons into a polarized extracellular region, driving the pH below 5.3. The severe acidity is toxic to T cells but not to cancer cells, highlighting a tumor survival strategy against immune surveillance. The study depicts the opposite roles of lactate anions and protons in regulating CD8 T cell health.

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Cancer imaging

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